Dave Ruffell, D-27905, started skydiving in 1979 and has built himself quite the legacy in the sport since then. In the 1980s, he started competing in formation skydiving as part of Team Juggle, and went on to compete with British National 8-way team Connexion. More recently, he has been part of both the SDC Rhythm XP 8-way FS team and the British National Wingsuit Team. For years, he managed the Sunshine Factory at Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida and has been an active AFF instructor and FS organizer. Ruffell has also worked in Hollywood, and his movie credits include “The Dark Knight Rises “and “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, performing stunts in both movies.
Nicknames: Rambo or Ruffell
Birthplace: South Shields, United Kingdom
Nationality: Dual UK/USA (choice is good)
Marital Status: Tried many times; settled now with my younger model, Christina Fisher
Children: Joanne and Katie Lou
Pet Peeves: Untidiness. I’m not OCD, I’m CDO; I like things in the correct order.
Hobbies: Golfing, flying, skydiving
Favorite Food: Scotched eggs, mince and mash
Life Philosophy: If you don’t like what you’re doing, change. You are in control of your own destiny.
Neat packer or a trash packer? I’m a neat packer but get others to do it.
Did you start out as a AFF, static-line or tandem student? Static line
Would you rather swoop or land on an accuracy tuffet? Swoop, but I’ve done both.
Jump Philosophy: Be smarter than the rest.
Team Name: In the ‘80s it was Juggle, then Display Team Malibu Rum, Connexion, British National Wingsuit Team and finally Rhythm 8-way.
Sponsors: Aerodyne Research, Airtec, Performance Designs, Sun Path Products and TonySuits
Container: Sun Path Javelin
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Valkyrie 90
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs Optimum 126
AAD: Airtec CYPRES
Disciplines: Formation skydiving, swooping accuracy and wingsuiting
Home Drop Zone: Skydive City Zephyrhills
Year of First Jump: 1979
USPA Licenses and Ratings: I’ve had them all. I currently hold a D License and AFF Instructor rating.
Championships and Medals: Lots (British 8-way and two world meets)
Largest completed formation: 296-way
Total Number of Cutaways: 15ish
How long do you plan on skydiving?
Until it’s no longer enjoyable
What do you like most about the sport?
The “mind freedom” when you’re skydiving. You are solely focused on what you are doing, and real-world problems are a distant haze.
What do you like least about the sport?
Who, if anybody, has been your skydiving mentor?
John Hitchen (British Parachute Association [now British Skydiving] National Coach and Safety Officer) and Derek Thomas (with whom I did my first formation skydive from 7,000 feet).
What safety item do you think is most often neglected?
Skydivers understanding how their equipment operates.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
My parents were into aviation, but we could not afford to pay for flying lessons. I decided to do a static-line jump, was hooked and never looked back.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
It’s not a rush. Experience is gained over time.
What is your favorite jump plane and why?
Twin Otter, because I enjoy flying it as a pilot and exiting as a skydiver.
If you could make everyone on the planet do something to make Earth a better place to live, what would it be?
Stop being so ****ing greedy—life is about more than money.
Most embarrassing moment while in freefall or at a drop zone:
In Ireland, trying to save someone’s life diving down from a formation; my AAD fired over a bog.
What kind of skydiving student were you—the typical flailer or a natural from jump number one?
I would say I was more of a natural than a flailer.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement? Realizing that anything is achievable with desire.
While in freefall (or under canopy), what has been your strangest thought?
Being towed behind a Hercules on my 50th birthday, wondering “What the **** am I doing here?”
Do you have any suggestions for USPA?
People with 100 jumps should only ride on a coach[bus], not be one. Jumpers need to gain more experience before passing on knowledge and skills to others.
You have done stunt work in several major motion pictures. What is it like to work on such projects, then go to the theater and see the finished product?
It amazes me to see how much time and effort you spend completing the stunts for the short period of time it’s on the screen.
Any bonfire stories to tell from the movies you have worked on?
Rapelling beneath a Super Puma to a Banderanti Shell, followed by a climb out the emergency exit of the Banderanti during flight. But, of course, the shot had to be on the opposite side of the door. We climbed out and stood on the wing until the director got just what he wanted.
You’ve been involved with the Sunshine Factory for a long time. Any thoughts to share on the company?
Joannie Murphy and I have built a strong friendship and business partnership which has allowed us to support the skydiving community and grow our business. I was fortunate to travel, compete and work in this sport while having Zhills and Sunshine Factory as my home base with the support of my family and Joannie. Working at Sunshine Factory has been a great way to earn a living and just clarifies to me that life is not about money. It’s about experiences.
You started skydiving in the late ‘70s and have accomplished much within the sport. Are you happy with how it has progressed?
Yes. They have progressively produced more efficient and safer equipment over the years, allowing the athletes to continue pushing themselves to the limit and allowing the sport to progress at the rate in which it has. The only negative side to the advancements in equipment and the systems is people now rely on certain equipment instead of using it as it was designed to be—a backup.
I skydive because …
The buzz, the freedom and the mates along the way.